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Fresh Ingredients and Traditional Favorites at Costa Rica's Best Lunch Restaurants



For a quintessential Costa Rican lunch in the city of San Jose. try a casado ("married"), at La Criollita. In Costa Rica's original capital of Cartago, Restaurante 1910 boasts original recipes inspired by traditional Costa Rican dishes like Olla de Carne, a steaming bowl of beef soup made with seasonal tubers. Rub shoulders with locals on a liesurely lunch break at La Fuente de los Mariscos in La Uruca, where a full bar complements a menu of savory seafood specials. Or, splurge on a feast for lunch prepared by the French chef in the kitchen at Hotel Grano del Oro.  Along the Caribbean coast, Sobre las Olas sits perched on the edge of the stunning Playa Blanca in Cahuita and serves delicious mussels among its tantalizing list of appetizers and entrees. A few kilometers south of Puerto Viejo de Limon, Bread & Chocolate whips up wonderful lunches alongside delicious homemade truffles and treats made with locally grown cacao. A few streets away sits Pan Pay, a local favorite started by a couple of Spanish brothers that brought not only their infectious love for soccer but their unique bread recipe to Costa Rica,  and now they churn out fresh baked baguettes that make the best lunch sandwiches.


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A lovely atmosphere met with large portions and delicious flavors make Restaurante Don Porfi a longstanding favorite in Turrialba. The owner is a gregarious gent named Sergio, who may have more than a little something to do with this place's popularity, as he's been known to help diners make tour arrangements as well as suggest the best glass of wine to match their meal. There's rarely a crowd, so reservations are suggested but not always necessary. Finding this place is easy, just ask a taxi to take you there since it's a couple of miles north of the town center.


La Fuente de los Mariscos
Photo courtesy of slamonica

For excellent seafood, La Fuente is the place. Overlooking a busy parking lot and highway, it's perhaps not where one may expect to find delicious ceviche and stand out langosta (lobster) but indeed it is. The inside is so small you'll be rubbing shoulders with the wait staff and bartender, but the outside tables are accommodating enough, and once the food arrives, it won't matter that there are no candles or fancy tablecloths. Though seafood is clearly the specialty, the menu includes a fine selection of other options, from filet mignon to cheeseburgers, everyone can find something to feast on here. Portions are generous and if it takes awhile for your plate to arrive, all the more time to work up an appetite to savor the flavors that won't disappoint. And, there is a full bar.




Bread and Chocolate has become a landmark cafe in Puerto Viejo, and for good(ies) reason. Locals and tourists enjoy gathering to partake in some wholesome breakfasts, lunches, and signature baked goods here, which include handmade truffles, delectable brownies, and scrumptious muffins. There are only a handful of tables on the raised deck just off the main road in the center of town, but even when there's a full house it just seems cozy rather than crowded. Coffee is served in individual French presses, and everything is made fresh right there in the busy kitchen that Tom oversees. Bread and Chocolate is open from 6:30am to 6:30pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 6:30 to 2:30 on Sundays (closed Mondays). It's also cash only.


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La Luz


The menu at La Luz is quite diverse, afterall it was one of the country's first fusion restaurants, and still impresses with an eclectic menu of diverse tastes; the expert chef pays close attention to detail and every plate is served like a work of art. Costa Rican regional cuisine, meets California-inspired fresh ingredients and a bevy of international influences that all make for a merry culinary adventure. The glass-walled dining room exudes a classic, elegant feel and offers exceptional views, especially at night. Sunday Brunch is a celebratory affair that draws crowds of locals and tourists to this spot in the Alta Hotel, and reservations are suggested.




La Casona del Cafetal is a restaurant and event destination located amidst a sprawling coffee farm, offering excellent cuisine and sweeping views of its lushly planted grounds, complete with a glistening lake, Lago de Cachi. The ambience alone makes La Casona del Cafetal an ideal choice for romantic dinners and special occasions, especially weddings and anniversaries because of its romantic setting, and since it can accommodate up to 300 guests at once, it is often booked in advance. For the casual diner, however, there is a bright and airy dining room and chef-served buffet tables heaped high with international cuisine cooked to perfection.


La Criollita
Photo courtesy of slamonica

La Criollita is an excellent place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has something on the menu for everyone. The fare is traditional Costa Rican; generous portions of meat, chicken and fish with rice, beans and salad on the side, and big selection of delicious appetizers like Tico-style ceviche and a tasty chicken soup to whet the appetite. There are three dining spaces, a main room that overlooks the big and busy kitchen, a bright and airy side room with art-filled walls, and a charming covered outdoor terrace with a bird garden and wrought iron furniture. There is rarely a wait for a table, but lunch time fills up early with nearby business people, so breakfast and dinner are ideal for settling into a relaxing meal. The coffee is excellent, too,save room for dessert; checkout the options like flan and cheesecake on display under the glass on your way in. Bonus: Full Bar.


Grano de Oro Restaurant


What started as a simple hotel caf� has expanded to become one of the country's finest restaurants with well-earned reputation. Casually elegant, this restaurant is situated off the Grano de Oro Hotel's central courtyard which provides for pleasant seating options on cooperative days. A Frech chef is behind the European menu has Costa Rican influences and changes regularly, featuring seafood, beef, chicken and vegetable offerings. If it's available on your visit, try the macadamia-encrusted covina or the Gorgonzola-stuffed filet mignon, but truly whatever you choose will shine. And most certainly make room for dessert as the offerings here are scrumptious.


Pan Pay
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica


Pan Pay is Puerto Viejo's most popular spot for locals; here is where everyone comes for coffee, croissants, baguettes for later, and to catch up with the neighbors- and if there's a soccer game on, you can watch it here. Located in a casual open air spot adjacent to the police station, many of the tables outside have a view of the water. The prices for breakfast and lunch are the lowest in town and you get plenty of bang for your buck. Owned by two Spanish brothers who take baking seriously, the glass display is brimming with goodies that are hard to resist. Pan Pay opens at 7 but closes in the late afternoon, and everything on the menu is good.


Cartago's very history is visible in enlarged vintage photographs on display throughout this restaurant, enlightening guests to the town's rich history, highlighted by the earthquake of 1910 that nearly demolished the town of Cartago and most of its residents. The menu at Restaurant 1910 is full of classic Costa Rican dishes like the cheese tortillas and the chorreadas prepared with sweet locally harvested corn. There are piping hot bowls of olla de carne, generous platters heaping with chicken breasts, rice, beans and fried plantains. A well-chosen wine selection is an added bonus. Restaurante 1910 is open Monday to Thursday from 11:30 AM to 9 PM, Friday and Saturday from 11:30 AM to 10:00 PM, Sunday from 11:30 AM to 6:30 PM.


Sobre las Olas
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica


Perched on the edge of the coral reef overlooking the beautiful coast of Cahuita, Sobre las Olas is a perfect little restaurant that has excellent food to match its ambience. The best seats are outside nestled between the palm trees, where mussels on the half shell and ceviche are fine appetizers to get you in the mood for an excellent meal. Italian owners have created a menu with the home country's influence but focused on fresh local ingredients and expertly prepared seafood. If you haven't happened upon it while visiting Cahuita, it's worth asking to be pointed in the right direction and is a pleasant stroll just north of town. Bonus: There is a full bar here, too.


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Meet Sophia LaMonica

On Sophia's first trip to Costa Rica, she came face to face with white-faced monkeys, gasped at the sight of giant purple crabs, and rode horseback through plunging waterfalls. Costa Rica...  More About Sophia

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